NBA Wrap: Johnson's late heroics give Nets win

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NBA Wrap: Johnson's late heroics give Nets win

PHOENIX -- Joe Johnson stole a pass and dropped in a short jumper as time expired in overtime, giving the Brooklyn Nets a 100-98 win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

Johnson had tied the game at the end of regulation on a short floater with 30 seconds left. He finished with 13 points on 6-of-19 shooting as the Nets picked up their first road win of the season.

Brook Lopez scored 25 of his 27 points for Brooklyn in the second half and overtime.

The Suns had tied the game on a lob to P.J. Tucker for a dunk with 57 seconds left in overtime. Tucker scored 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime for the Suns, who had been undefeated at home in four previous games.

The Nets lost point guard Deron Williams in the first quarter when he sprained his left ankle (see full recap).

LeBron scores 39 in Heat win
MIAMI -- LeBron James scored 39 points, Dwyane Wade had 17 points, eight assists and a career-best eight steals, and the Miami Heat held off the Dallas Mavericks 110-104 Friday night.

James made 14 of 18 shots for the Heat (6-3), while Chris Bosh scored 14 points. Norris Cole and Rashard Lewis each added 11 for Miami, which has topped the 100-point mark in every game this season.

Wade became the second player in Heat history with at least eight steals and eight assists in a game; Tim Hardaway did it against Atlanta on Dec. 20, 1997.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points for Dallas (5-4), while Vince Carter added 21 and Monta Ellis had 20 for the Mavericks. Jose Calderon added 12 for Dallas, which turned the ball over 24 times (see full recap).

Pacers push record to 9-0
INDIANAPOLIS -- Roy Hibbert scored 24 points and had eight blocks, both season-highs, leading unbeaten Indiana past Milwaukee 104-77 Friday night.

The Pacers became the first team since the 2002-03 Dallas Mavericks to open a season at 9-0. Indiana has already beaten all four of its Central Division foes and will attempt to stay perfect Saturday night at Chicago.

Hibbert had plenty of help. Paul George scored 10 of his 22 points in the third quarter and Lance Stephenson finished with 11 points.

The short-handed Bucks (2-6) spent most of the game playing catch-up. With four injured players sitting out, O.J. Mayo led the Bucks with 20 points. Khris Middleton and Gary Neal each had 11 -- nowhere near enough to avoid a fourth straight loss.

Indiana took control with two big third-quarter spurts to build a 68-53 lead (see full recap).

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."